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Northern Ireland police chief warns republican terror groups recruiting on back of Brexit

2 min read

A senior Northern Ireland police chief has warned that Brexit is being used by dissident IRA groups to recruit new members.

Stephen Martin, Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI, said violent republicans would exploit uncertainty over the future of the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland to further their aims.

He said that it was “highly foreseeable” that police officers would be targeted by the terrorists if any kind of customs checks were re-introduced after Britain leaves the EU.

"The dissidents will seek to exploit the outworking of Brexit if they’re able to exploit it,” he told the Northern Ireland Affairs committee. "That will be in terms of trying to garner support, a narrative around the re-emphasising of partition, depending on what Brexit looks like.

"They will engage in that discourse and they will seek to engender support and seek to recruit on the back of that."

When asked if they are recruiting successfully as it stands, Mr Martin confirmed they were.

The police chief also warned that increased personnel around the border area, such as HMRC staff, would lead to a need for police protection and therefore an increase in attempts to murder officers.

"I have no doubt that if there is an enhanced policing profile, even if that policing profile is in support of other agencies doing mobile compliance checking for example, yards or other places then I think it is highly foreseeable that there will be attacks on the police and attempts to murder police officers if that situation was to occur," he added.

"I chose my words carefully because when we’re giving evidence it’s very important we’re apolitical and I think it’s something we have to be scrupulous around, I make no observation on the politics of Brexit, but if there are enhanced compliance checking for example by HMRC, and HMRC have an uplift of around 5000 personnel across the United Kingdom, so we can reasonably envisage that there’s going to be enhanced checking and functions carried out by those personnel.”

Mr Martin also said the process could offer terror gangs the “lucrative” chance to raise funds, were there to be “a disparity in tariffs for example, on elicit cigarettes, fuel or robberies."

Meanwhile the PSNI’s chief constable, George Hamilton, told the committee that the force felt “in the dark” around who in the UK government was heading preparations for the Irish border after Brexit.

He said there was no “go-to coordinator” to assist the PSNI, adding: “The clock is ticking – time is running out.”

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